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Break up all that sit, sit, sitting with bursts of activity

Are you sitting too long? If you spend half your day being sedentary, watching TV or working at the computer, you could very well benefit from inviting some movement into that time frame, even if you've had your regular morning workout.

Studies have found that regular structured physical activity, while excellent for our health, does not cancel out the negative factors of prolonged sitting. We now have evidence that prolonged sitting without any intermittent movement comes with some very deleterious effects.

Dr. James A. Levine, author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, says, "The human body hasn't changed that much over the last several hundred years, but the way we live has. We've gone from an agricultural lifestyle, in which we spent only a few hours each day sitting, to one in which the average American worker sits for 12 to 15 hours a day."

After sitting for long periods of time, most people may only share the immediate aftereffects: lethargy and stiffness. However, research points to more long-term negative effects. As circulation slows, so does calorie burning, which can lead to weight gain. In addition, swollen ankles, varicose veins and other leg disorders often develop; muscles can weaken, prompting the "slouch and shuffle" effect; and hip flexors can become shortened and tight, decreasing range of motion when walking (one of the main reasons older people have a tendency to fall). Cholesterol levels and the cardiovascular system also can be negatively affected.

Good news

Breaking up your sitting time with intermittent bursts of activity will help offset the risks. Try these:

• Take a five-minute "walk-around" for every hour you sit. This revs up circulation in arms and legs.

• Be a fidgeter. Shift your position every 15 or 20 minutes.

• When reading, stand up and walk around after finishing so many chapters.

• Every so often, stand up and sit down several times.

• When watching TV, walk and stretch during commercials.

• To help with shoulder tension, roll your shoulders forward eight to 10 times, then backward eight to 10 times.

• Rotate your ankles and wrists often to help improve circulation. This also strengthens ankle-wrist flexibility.

Also consider incorporating these mini movements into your day:

• On the phone? Walk around the room or stand.

• Take a five-minute walk or trot every coffee break.

• Do a few wall pushups and leg lifts using the kitchen counter.

• Dance to your own beat. Play your favorite music and create your own dance movements. (This seems to be popular among some of my readers.)

• Walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, using a fitness tracker for motivation. Begin at your desired level, then gradually increase.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]

Photos by JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Seated jumping jacks: This gives you a little cardio boost without any impact on your joints. Sit on the edge of your chair, back straight, knees bent, feet on the floor. Simultaneously open and close your arms and legs as you would for a jumping jack. If you don't want to extend your arms overhead, raise them to shoulder level. Gradually work up to two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Seated leg extension with a twist: This strengthens the thighs, hip muscles and abdominals. Sitting near the edge of a chair with a straight back, extend your right leg. Cross your arms in front of your chest and, with abdominals contracted, lift your right leg to knee level. (Avoid locking your knee.) At the same time, rotate your upper body to the right. Pause three or four seconds, then return to center, lowering your leg. Repeat eight to 10 times, then change sides and repeat.

Shoulder rotation with knee lift: This targets the obliques (side abdominals). Sit tall with your knees bent, feet on the floor, hands behind your ears. Contracting your abdominals, lift your left knee off the floor and rotate your right elbow and shoulder diagonally across your body. (Avoid leading with your elbow and pulling on your neck.) Return to an upright position. Repeat 12 to 15 times, then change sides and repeat.

Break up all that sit, sit, sitting with bursts of activity 02/22/16 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2016 6:53pm]
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